The Essay, Cities on the Brink Episode 3 of 5
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Stepping back in time, three BBC News correspondents present their personal perspectives on the capital cities of the major European powers that fought the Great War.

The first programme explores the epicentre of turmoil as the conflagration took hold: Berlin, the capital of Kaiser Wilhelm II's empire. Stephen Evans reminds us that the German capital on the eve of war was the world's most innovative technological centre. Einstein was here, the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics from 1914. Mark Twain called Berlin the "German Chicago" because of its dizzying sense of modernity and progress. Immigrants were sucked in by industry. In 1895, 20,000 Berliners worked in the factories being built on the outskirts of the city, living cheek-by-jowl in new blocks which became known as "rental barracks".

But all this industrial energy and the wealth it created - which we still associate with today's Germany - came at a price. Both male and female workers felt alienated in their work, likening themselves to machines. As women grew in importance to the economy, so did the loudness of the criticism of their alleged neglect of traditional home virtues. The image of Germany united in war that was to be orchestrated later in the year was already belied by the reality of daily life in the capital itself.

Producer Simon Coates.

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15 minutes

Last on

Mon 31 Aug 2015 22:45

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